JOHN DAY – A new executive director is at the helm of the Grant-Harney County Court Appointed Special Advocate program.
Tracey Blood oversees volunteers in both counties who are trained to advocate for abused and neglected children going through the dependency system.
CASA’s mission, Blood said, is to recruit, train and support people who can be a voice for children in court, and educate the community regarding that responsibility.
The program’s goal is to advocate for a safe, permanent and nurturing home for every child it serves.
Blood works 30 hours per week between Grant and Harney counties.
While in her new position for only a few months, Blood’s interest in CASA was sparked back in 2004, when she was a CASA volunteer.
It’s a community-based program, Blood said, with local staff and volunteers working to help local children.
She stressed that the children served are in the system through no fault of their own.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate program began in Seattle in 1977, the idea of Juvenile Court Judge David Soukup. Ten years later, the Oregon legislature mandated that all abused or neglected children should have an appointed CASA representative.
Grant-Harney County CASA was launched in 1999.
Blood said there are four volunteer advocates in Grant County and two in Harney County, who are able to serve about 50 percent of the children who come into care.
“Our goal is to have enough CASA volunteers to serve 100 percent of the children in care in our community,” she said.
According to Blood, the cost to serve one child going through the judicial system is about $1,500. She said although CASA is a state-mandated program, the state only funds 30 percent of the need for Grant-Harney CASA.
CASA depends on community support and grant funding for the balance of the expenses involved.
“Even if you are unable to act as a child advocate, volunteers can help the program with fundraising and outreach events for CASA, or by making a donation to the program,” she said.
Blood is a Grant County native, and a 1999 graduate of Grant Union High School. She has a bachelor of science degree from Portland State, with a major in health science and a minor in psychology.
Blood previously worked as a mental health specialist at an acute psychiatric facility for two years before starting at CASA.
She and her husband, David, live in Mt. Vernon with their two teenage children, Kade, 15, and Tyler, 13.
Her hobbies include enjoying outdoor recreational activities with her family, such as camping, hiking, fishing and hunting.
Community health is also a major interest for Blood.
“I enjoy working with other health-minded people toward the common goal of improving the overall health of our community,” she said.
Blood said CASA is in need of new advocates, and there will be training for volunteers coming up this summer. She encourages anyone interested to give her a call or stop by the ESD building at 835 Canyon Blvd., where the CASA office is located, to talk with her.
It’s certainly a service about which she is passionate.
“I love working together with other community members to improve the quality of living for the children who are such an important part of our community,” Blood said.
CASA office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 541-575-5574 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.